Tkeyah “Keyah” Williams is a mother of two, yoga instructor, artist, and all around creative who was born and raised in Jackson; specifically, south Jackson. In 2016, she started her vegan journey, inspired by her mother who went vegan because of depleting health. Inspired by her mother, Keyah went vegan to improve her health but included her kids on the journey. She was dealing with stress and bad headaches due to a personal loss and her daughter suffered from chronic asthma. After seeing the benefits and her daughter turning from a bubble baby to a playful child, she was on a mission to educate individuals on health and the food we eat. She started with family and friends, and despite the backlash, she persisted. Keyah moved from events and markets to brick and mortar.
JXNPRENEUR: What was the process of opening Mama Nature’s Juice and Salad Bar? How long did it take?
KEYAH: I’ve been in business for two and a half years and have been in our space for one year. It took six months of planning then six months of build-out to open the store.
JXNPRENEUR: Did you have a support system?
KEYAH: Yes! My mother, Michael McElroy, partner, and Tim Ward, consultant and mentor. My mother helped to pull me from the pit of depression, confusion, and helped me to truly tap into who I am and what I can achieve. My partner helped to motivate me, by believing in me and my vision and helping on those long nights of working a 9-5 then fulfilling orders until 3 or 4 am. My consultant and mentor gave me words of wisdom in my business and professional life, ensuring I do not give up on my bigger goals. They ensured I do not settle.
JXNPRENEUR: You'll be opening a second location soon, can you tell us a bit about that, the process and your vision for your business?
KEYAH: Yoooo, this is manifesting in action. I definitely had a vision in mind for the company, and it’s a blessing for everything to unfold the way I’ve projected. We definitely had a few left turns and alternate routes on getting here but the timeline remains the same. Gives me the feels that this is divinely lead and I’m on my true life path. The vision is to create an umbrella company of plant-based products and businesses. Three brick and mortar before possibly franchising. Getting in gyms, yoga studios, and wherever true health is sought. Definitely, want to be a beacon of light in the health Industry in Mississippi and connecting people back to nature.
JXNPRENEUR: Did any local small business or entrepreneurship agencies assist you? If yes, what did they provide? If no, what would you have liked to receive?
KEYAH: Initially, yes. Some people truly wanted to assist, others were not truly motivating enough as they should be for beginning entrepreneurs; especially, women of color who are already facing so many obstacles before we start. I expected to be assisted with being motivated to pursue my dreams but was instead faced with doubts and misunderstanding in my vision. I appreciate the connect they did give me with the person who composed my business plan, but that was still not exactly what I wanted to produce. But after I received the business plan, I knew it was time to pay to play in my field. From there, I found a consultant and surrounded myself with those who wanted to see my vision unfold and succeed.
JXNPRENEUR: What advice would you give entrepreneurs who want to open a similar business?
KEYAH: Go for it!! Mississippi is a playground of possibilities. Health education is on the rise, and people are becoming more aware of what their eating and how it affects them. Join the health curve that’s kicking in gear.
JXNPRENEUR: Any advice for startups?
KEYAH: Visualize where you intend to take your company. Pray over it, believe in it, and continue working toward it, until you can set another goal. Research, plan, market, stay professional, listen to what your customers aren’t saying, and stay true to yourself and mission. Do not allow the fear of others to shrink your vision, but become a master at your business, skill, or product. Find your company niche and use that as your selling point, that sets you apart. Place yourself around other motivated individuals because that energy will help to keep you motivated.
JXNPRENEUR: What's your go to song for motivation?
KEYAH: Panic at Disco “High Hopes” and Meek Mill “Going Bad” featuring Drake
JXNPRENEUR: You host a networking event. What's it's purpose and how often do you host it?
KEYAH: That is an event I co-host with a young man by the name of Cameron with Let’s Talk Biz. I collab with motivated local entrepreneurs to assist them with their vision. Anyway, I can be of assistance. Currently offering the space at a rate lower than others, spreading info of their products, and giving insight in entrepreneurship and ownership.